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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Monday, December 07, 2009

McIlheran Watch: Fact-checker needed, PLEASE!

by folkbum

Yesterday was Sunday, which means calumnist* Patrick McIlheran's op-ed tripe ran in the paper. As usual, it's cringe-worthy in its denial of reality and bending of facts.

McIlheran, like much of the wingnut contingent, is still going on about the thieved emails from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit. To remind you all, the CRU is just one collection of scientists doing climate research, and even if everything they ever did turns out to have been cooked up in a late-night, pot-induced "wouldn't it be funny if ..." kind of scenario, there are still literally tens of thousands of other scientists doing independent research with their own observations and data in other parts of the world whose work still points in one, incontrovertible direction: Human activity affects the earth's climate.

But the emails are shiny and the new-scandal smell hasn't yet worn off, so McIlheran isn't ready to put them down. No matter that he seems to have absolutely no sense of what the science discussed in the emails means, he's willing to misread them and take phrases out of context to justify his pro-corporate, anti-Algore world view.

For example, he has repeatedly blogged in the last couple weeks about the jacked emails, and repeatedly gotten stuff wrong. He's written at least twice, for example, that "[t]he British center admitted it threw out its original data on which it pinned its predictions of disaster." Which is true--at some point in the 1980s the CRU moved from one office to another and opted not to haul its paper copies in the process. But McIlheran claims that means "other researchers, thus, cannot check the claims" of the CRU. Which is false, as the CRU does not do its own data collection, and all the paper it tossed 25 years ago was merely copies of data that exist other places and that, if you want, you can get for yourself.

McIlheran's falsity was corrected by commenters at his blog, but it doesn't seem to have helped, since he drops it into Sunday's column anyway: "Lest you think we can sort this out by re-running the numbers, it transpires that the center discarded its original data. Their predictions now are uncheckable, unfalsifiable--in short, not science but faith." Apparently it's McIlheran who's holding on to faith over fact--the faith that his preconceived prejudice against science outweighs the truth that the data are not missing at all.

And in Sunday's column he also includes this doozy:
The e-mails, leaked or hacked by unknown parties but acknowledged to be real, do not in themselves disprove man-made global warming. They do reveal these researchers, the experts who wrote the doom narrative, discussing among themselves how to manipulate data to make observations fit their predictions. One telling message from the unit's head is about how to "hide the decline" in observed temperatures, as global warming seems to have halted about a decade ago, something their models are unable to explain.
Leave aside for just a moment the fact that McIlheran doesn't know what "hide the decline" was actually referring to--or rather, he chooses to misrepresent what it means, because the accurate interpretation is not just all over the internet but also in the comments to his blog posts where he initially offered the bad reading of it.

Instead, consider that McIlheran chooses to apply "hide the decline" to the notion that, in his words, "global warming seems to have halted about a decade ago." I've included McIlheran's own links so that you can see for yourself just how baldly misleading McIlheran is being here. Really, there's no other way to describe it--McIlheran is blatantly lying to push his agenda (shocker!). How can you tell? The second of his two links notes that "the world grew warmer by 0.07 degrees Celsius from 1999 to 2008 [. . .]. And, say the British experts, when their figure is adjusted for two naturally occurring climate phenomena, El Niño and La Niña, the resulting temperature trend is reduced to 0.0 degrees Celsius--in other words, a standstill." So temperatures overall have flatlined since 1999 (in some places, temps are higher, of course, and in some places, they're lower, but we're talking global average.)

Now check McIlheran's first link, the one to the email from Phil Jones at the CRU. Note the date: "Tue, 16 Nov 1999." That's right, ladies and gentleman, Patrick McIlheran, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's "Right Wing Guy," just accused Phil Jones of describing a method for "how to 'hide the decline' in observed temperatures" since 1999--in 1999. How does McIlheran explain this? Is Phil Jones a witch, maybe, and McIlheran would like to throw him in the lake to be sure? Or maybe Phil Jones got a fortune cookie in 1999 predicting flatlined temps. Magic eight ball? ESP? Time machine? What? I really want to know!

I realize that the Journal Sentinel is getting down to a bit of bare-bones staffing, but is there not one single person there responsible for checking facts? Surely someone clicked on the links McIlheran included in his own submitted op-ed and saw the absurdity of this. How does something that obvious get through?

* coined by iT

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